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EU must change homophobic crime laws

18.09.2013 - 11:11

The European Union is failing to protect its LGTB citizens through inadequate legislative safeguards, human rights campaigners are warning.

According to a new report by Amnesty International, hate crime based on sexual orientation or gender identity continue to blight Europe.

In addition, according to recent report by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency, in the past five years one-in-four LGTBI people have been attacked or threatened with violence in Europe, while around 70% say that they cannot discuss their sexuality for fear of prejudice. A recent EU-wide study revealed that 80% of homophobic violence is not reported to the police, because of a fear of institutionalised prejudice.

While there are legal protections in the EU against prejudice, such as the Framework Decision on Racsism and Xenophobia, currently under its five-year revision, there does not exist specific EU-legislation against hate crime against members of the LGTBI community. Protection in individual member states also varies.

“Hate crime is everywhere in Europe,” says Marco Perolini, an Amnesty International researcher on discrimination in Europe, “In Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, for example. But also in places where gay couples can be legally married, like Belgium and UK.”

“The state's response to these crimes are often inadequate,” he says, speaking in Brussels on 18 September, “and people often have the impression that their complaints are not taken seriously. Victims of this kind of hate crime do not report because they fear prejudice, or don't think the police are competent.”

The report highlights several case studies across Europe where victims of violence have come up against inadequate police responses to attacks , in some cases murder both in terms of investigation and in follow-up support services.

What sets these crimes apart, says Perolini, is the hate element. However, the current EU framework does not address homophobic violence directly, he says, despite the fact that in the past five years 70 transsexuals have been killed through hate crime in Europe, 20 of them in Italy.

EU member states, he says, should adopt “strong policy measures” that tackle hate crime directly. Countries should also refrain from adopting laws that have an effect on discrimination, such as a recently-enacted law in Russia that sought to ban education on gay issues under the guise of “protecting minors.”

“In most European countries, there is legislation prohibiting hate crime on the grounds of race ethnicity,” says Marco Perolini. “But there are still legislative gaps in Europe. The problem at EU level is that there is a provision in the framework decision 913 on hate-motivated violence, but not secificaal related to sexual orientation, or, for that matter, on disability.”

The report is calling on the EU and member states to close these legislative gaps, as well as for a review of the current framework decision to ensure that it covers hate crime on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“There continue to be problems at both national and EU level,” says Perolini. “There are existing laws on discrimination in the EU, but what we are calling on is different. This relates to hate-motivated violence. The EU does not recognise hate crimes based around sexual orientation. This is unacceptable, because sexual orientation and gender identity are protected on grounds of discrimination in international human rights law.”